Internships are a cornerstone of the academic experience for many students at NYU. Especially for those pursuing degrees at the School of Professional Studies (SPS). This real-world experience can help confirm you’re on the right path or expose you to entirely new professional possibilities. For Joe Pagliazzo, a junior majoring in Hotel and Tourism Management at NYU SPS, the former proved to be true. He can even point to a specific moment that confirmed he was on the perfect career path.

NYU SPS student Joe Pagliazzo standing outside a hotel.
Direction: Confirmed

When Joe interned at a Hyatt resort in Florida last summer, a family approached the front desk to inquire about tickets to a nearby water park they wanted to visit. They were understandably disappointed when Joe informed them there was a waitlist. However, when Joe arrived at work the next day, he learned there were several unused park tickets. And he was able to call the family with the good news.

“The mother was so grateful,” Joe recalls. “She came back at the end of the day to say that they’d had so much fun. Being able to go above and beyond to make their experience more special made me feel like I knew what I was doing. It was an experience that confirmed for me that this is the direction I want to go in.”

Hospitality or Bust

Joe has long been drawn to the hospitality industry. Even before coming to NYU SPS, he worked as a busser, server, and host at a restaurant in his Massachusetts hometown. There, he knew his regular customers’ names, favorite tables, and preferred wines. “I really like to make personal connections,” he shares. According to Joe, it’s these relationships that drew him to hospitality in the first place. What better way to connect with others than through direct, real-life experiences? And what better place to do it than at NYU SPS?

“The Hotel and Tourism Management major is ideal if you know you want to apply what you learn in the classroom to the world around you,” says Joe. He is concentrating in organizations and operations to pursue his passion for hotel operations.

Real-World Experiences Make All the Difference

Joe had the chance to explore this passion up close when he participated in a site visit to the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square as part of his Lodging Industry Structures and Strategies class. “Seeing how that hotel operates was a huge factor in giving me confidence in my decision to pursue this concentration,” he says. “A team worked together within their individual roles to make sure people’s experiences at the property were unforgettable.”

Joe experienced the hotel in action a few months before COVID-19 brought the hospitality and travel industries to a screeching halt. The pandemic also impacted his first internship experience, which ended up being remote, with event production company Cannonball Productions. But he says he still learned a lot, especially through one of his major projects: recruiting Black-owned businesses and other businesses owned by members of historically marginalized communities for the Bacon and Beer Classic festival in Denver.

Portrait of Joe Pagliazzo.
Committed to Making Connections

Despite some of the hiccups Joe faced as a result of the pandemic, he says he’s been inspired by the industry’s resilience, including its rapid transition to touch-free technologies, mobile ordering, and takeout dining. Still, nothing can replace the importance of the personal connections that first drew him to hospitality.

“Travel is always going to come back,” he says. “So many of the people I met last summer were on their first trip since everything started. And they were so relieved to be somewhere different. In my opinion, nothing replaces human contact. I will always try to find that human connection.” This spring he will have the chance to connect again as he gains even more internship experience—this time in rooms operations at the New York Hilton Midtown in Manhattan.